An inspiration

You are only as good as your last event, so what inspires today’s event managers to do better?

As an avid reader of Stand Out, no doubt you will have seen Expand International’s Julian Rowlandson’s piece on page 14. He quotes Benjamin Franklin: “If better is possible, good is not enough”. Franklin it seems was ahead of his time, encouraging others to strive for perfection and do better, and was famous for numerous sayings, including “well done is better than well said”.

That very notion, in today’s modern business world, could not be more appropriate and apt if spoken in reference of the event industry – where physical events are remembered for the experiences and emotions they bring to life much more so than those described in a presentation or briefing document.

To be better at something is a culmination of self-pride and determination, a thirst to learn and a hunger for knowledge. For some, motivation to be a better manager or leader can come from the inspiration of seeing it done better by someone else, almost a knee jerk reaction to a feeling of jealousy perhaps, and a yearning to be the best.

Cold hard cash as a motivator does not cut it these days – unless an employee feels undervalued – rather acceptance, recognition and respect amongst peers are key drivers.

According to Alan Wright, co-founder of Cascade Productions, the ability to surprise your next audience is a motivational factor, and it’s challenges such as these that continue to inspire.

So says Sarah Easter, deputy show manager, RHS Show Tatton Park, BBC Gardeners’ World Live and Wisley Flower Show: “There are more challenges than ever facing today’s event managers; decreasing leisure time, lower disposable income and the wealth of alternatives available to consumers. These challenges instead of having a detrimental effect on events are inspiring and daring event managers to produce evermore creative and unique events to be able to compete in this tough arena. This has been fuelled by a constant and exciting stream of new technology available to the events market, allowing exciting ideas to become a reality.

“Supported by mediums such as Twitter and LinkedIn, the events community is becoming increasingly tight knit, making networking and finding the ideal supplier both enjoyable and efficient. This fast paced way of organising is both exciting and stimulating pushing event managers forward to search for creation of the perfect event”.

Michelle Adams, head of events, One Ltd, suggests that it’s about going that extra mile but feels that companies and individuals are judged differently, and that there needs to be a more level playing field.

“As an individual you are reviewed by your CV, as a company you are reviewed by your events… seems fair. Although if the trend is now to look at a company’s last event and use that as a basis on whether or not to award business, the world seems to have changed. As an agency specialising in event design consultancy all of our clients come to us with very different brief… if there is a brief at all. It’s about creating an experience that is right for them and their audience, which absolutely has to be unique. So for us, being measured on the actual event is just crazy. But if we are talking about measuring us on the quality, design, process and success of the event then sure… we are only as good as our last event.

But what are the key XXX to success? Emma Jones, events manager at Holmewood Hall, a conference venue in Cambridgeshire, explains that meticulous planning and excellent teamwork are both inspirational and satisfying.

“Believing in what you are selling and knowing you are going to tailor everyone’s needs individually is imperative. Everyone needs to enjoy the event including myself.  I enjoy the feedback from the customers and this can often help in making the changes to make the next person’s experience that little bit more exciting.”

Both Sarada Chaudhuri, freelance event manager, and Robin Carlisle, managing director of Mobile Promotions, agree with Jones, arguing that event managers and organisers must immerse themselves in the event itself. With only objective knowledge coming from “living the dream”.

Explains Chaudhuri: “I’m always on a quest to see where I could have improved, even if the event went well. Sometimes this comes through my own observations/mental notes during the event. Sometimes I put myself in the visitor’s shoes and try to see what they would see, and where they would have wanted something to have gone better. Then, there’s the actual feedback from those attending or involved in organising the event – anecdotal, qualitative/quantitative i.e. from evaluation forms or other evaluation methods. This inspires me, as I value the objectivity of a fresh pair of eyes, and I know that I won’t always be the one with the big idea.

“I am ultimately inspired by a satisfied client. To me, this encourages me to raise the bar, and see where I can create an even better experience, so that they continue to be satisfied. I also draw inspiration from the worlds of music, art, design, fashion and media, looking at how to incorporate or fuse elements from these areas into something exciting for the next event. I’m also inspired by the success of others – if someone has created a knockout event, I want to see if there’s anything I can learn from that.”

And Carlisle adds: “I think that one critical aspect that organisers often forget is to actually be a part of the event that they have created. It’s so easy to be busy running around the site and not engage or immerse with the event and see it through the eyes of the delegates or visitors. As an organiser you need to take a step back, experience it as part of the audience, enjoy the atmosphere, and run your own critique on what you see and do, using the knowledge to inspire you to do better next time.

“A close relationship with the brand you’re working on and the people behind it is key to keeping us inspired, and ensures we keep pushing the boundaries. Understanding the broader business goals and seeing them achieved over time, quickly moving onto the next phase of development has kept me focused on our accounts for over 20 years. I love being part of the businesses, their objectives, their brand issues, and being able to use events to actively affect the outcomes.”

“Everyone in the industry has felt the pinch over the last couple of years, which has meant that client’s can afford to demand the best of the best (and why shouldn’t they), so if that means having to go that extra mile, add even more value to each project then that’s just what we have to do to keep doing what we love doing.”